Moscow prison to install sunbeds for inmates

MOSCOW Tue Nov 9, 2010 11:49am EST

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MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - One of Russia's most notorious prisons will soon install sunbeds to improve the health of its inmates, its head said Tuesday.

Styled as a brick fortress, the 19th century Butyrka prison in central Moscow has held a slew of notable figures behind its bars, from persecuted Soviet-era writers Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Isaak Babel to Adolf Hitler's nephew Heinrich.

"We are developing additional medical services ... and even sunbeds will be put in place," Butyrka's head Sergei Telyatnikov told state-run radio station Vesti FM.

The sunbeds, which Telyatnikov said would be used for medical purposes, will be installed by the end of the year, the state-run RIA news agency said.

Russia's crowded, poorly managed prison system came under increased scrutiny after the November 2009 death of jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who spent much of the last months of his life in Butyrka.

Lawyers for the 37-year-old, who was an adviser to Hermitage, once the biggest equity investment fund in Russia, said he was kept in custody illegally and not given proper medical treatment in prison despite repeated requests.

In an unusual admission, the Federal Prison Service said it was partly responsible for Magnitsky's death.

Earlier this year, the prison service said almost half of Russia's inmates are ill, many infected with HIV or with tuberculosis. It blamed outdated medical equipment for disease and health problems.

Telyatnikov said inmates will also have access to ultrasound systems to "check up on their health," and could even have spa facilities such as mud baths in the future.

Supporters of Magnitsky say Butyrka lacked ultrasound equipment he needed when he was there.

Telyatnikov added that inmates will also be allowed to use Skype, which offers relatively cheap voice and video calls over the Internet, to contact their relatives.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato)

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